Industrial Gas Turbine Demand Grows [PODCAST]

When it comes to gas turbines, size matters. Although the market for large, heavy-duty gas turbines has been challenging in recent years, demand for industrial gas turbines—generally units with output ranging from about 5 MW to 100 MW—has been growing, according to Reed Lengel, product line manager for SCC-800 solutions with Siemens Energy.

“When you really dig into it,” Lengel said, speaking as a guest on The POWER Podcast, “there’s actually been pretty significant improvements—or growth in this power band within the portfolio. Where there’s been really a decline over the last four years in the total gas turbine sales—that’s just globally, looking at all gas turbine sales—in that same timeframe, the market share of this 40 to 90 MW power band gas turbine has actually doubled.” For Siemens, its SGT-800 gas turbine fits squarely in that range.

Increasing interest in industrial gas turbines has led manufacturers to invest in design improvements. New coatings, advanced cooling technologies, and additive manufacturing have spurred significant efficiency gains. Since 2015, the SGT-800’s efficiency has improved from about 56% to 58.6% in combined cycle mode, which makes it the market leader in efficiency for its power band, according to Lengel.

Flexibility has also made these mid-size gas turbines popular. Rather than constructing a single large gas turbine unit, many companies are deciding to install multiple smaller units at sites. “We actually have a six-on-one that’s actually under construction right now,” Lengel said. (Six-on-one refers to an arrangement in which six gas turbines and six heat recovery steam generators are joined with one steam turbine in a combined cycle configuration.) “That’s a project that’s down in Panama,” he said.

Industrial gas turbines are also good candidates for combined heat and power applications. Lengel mentioned the Holland Energy Park in Holland, Michigan—a POWER Top Plant in 2018—as a shining example of a plant that utilizes SGT-800 gas turbines for more than just generating electricity. That facility also provides heat for a snow-melt system that keeps downtown city walkways ice-free during the winter.

Although Lengel said there were only 14 SGT-800 units currently operating in the U.S., it’s a well-proven model around the world. “With the changes that are being seen, and I think the desire for more smaller units and distributed generation,” he said, “I think that’s only going to increase.”

When asked what sectors would be the biggest buyers of industrial gas turbines going forward, Lengel said, “Looking at some of the numbers, even from the [Energy Information Administration’s] latest energy outlook that they put in just a couple months ago, the bulk chemical [industry] actually is looking to increase pretty significantly in their power needs, and more specifically, on onsite generation. So, that’s one specific area that really could see some growth—in the U.S. in particular—for onsite power generation combined heat and power application.”

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Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine).